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For business days, I see both 'work day' and 'working day'. Which one is correct? Also asking between 'work hours' vs 'working hours'.

Context: I have 5 work/working/business days. My work/working/business hours are 7 per day.

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  • You have to give us the context. Ideally, you would give us a sentence so we can see exactly what you're trying to express. Jun 18, 2019 at 5:11

3 Answers 3

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In general, a work day is a day on which you work, while the working day is that part of the day when you're at work: "my work days are Monday to Friday: at the end of the working day I go straight home to dinner".

Working hours can be used to be more specific: "working hours are 9-5". A total number of working hours per day is often used in flexible working systems with core hours, i.e. hours when everyone is expected to be in: "working hours: 37.5 per week, core hours 10-4" (typical in a job specification). Work hours isn't as common but means the same.

Business hours, as the name suggests, apply to the business rather than its staff, like opening hours for a shop; they are likely to be longer than any individual's working hours.

Some of this may be biased towards British usage, but not intentionally.

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    In BrE, a "work day" is not a common phrase in my impression, whereas "working day" is mostly used to mean equally "a day on which work is done/business conducted" and "the hours in a day during which work is done", with context determining the appropriate meaning.
    – Steve
    Jun 18, 2019 at 8:17
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    I get in trouble when I say why I downvote, but I still can't bring myself not to say why I do so. (1) 'Some of this may be biased towards British usage, but not intentionally.' screams of opinion rather than sound analysis. (2) Dictionaries give entries for 'workday' and 'working day', and show that usages are inconsistent. The question should give these, never mind any answer. Jun 18, 2019 at 9:07
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    @EdwinAshworth the key here is usage which dictionaries do a poor job of capturing due to limited space - and if they did it would be general refernce. I can make allowances as best I can but place a warning in there. I know we've come at this from opposite viewpoints in the past, and I don't mind the disagreement on that basis. But I would like to see if you know of a dictionary that captures this much detail.
    – Chris H
    Jun 18, 2019 at 9:26
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    @feynman, it's not clear cut, so yes you can, and you'd be understood perfectly. Without carrying out a survey, it appears less common, and it seems less natural to me.
    – Chris H
    Jun 18, 2019 at 12:06
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    @ChrisH, you don't normally need to define the working days of the week, but you often need to define how many working days something takes - such as "cheques clear in three working days".
    – Steve
    Jun 18, 2019 at 14:16
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A quick visit to Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) yields the following entries:

workday n (13c) 1 : a day on which work is performed as distinguished from a day off 2 : the period of time in a day during which work is performed — workday adj

...

working day n (15c) : WORKDAY

In other words, according to this general-reference resource, the noun workday and the noun phrase working day are interchangeable, meaning that both definitions that MW gives for workday also apply to working day.

MW asserts that workday is roughly two centuries older than working day, but both terms have been in use for more than 500 years. Workday may be more firmly established than working day as an adjective, but the absence of "— working day adj" from the dictionary's entry for working day should not, I think, be taken as a denial that working day can appear as a modifier in expressions such as "working day routine"; indeed, a Google Books search finds multiple instances of that particular phrase, sometimes with the modifier hyphenated (as "working-day routine") and sometimes with it unhyphenated (as "working day routine").

The Ngram chart for "working day" (blue line) versus "work day" (red line) versus "workday" (green line) for the period 1550–2019 shows a fair amount of variability in the various terms' popularity over the years:

Most notably, working day enjoyed a much more dramatic increase in frequency of use from about 1820 until about 1920 than did work day and workday, but in recent decades its advantage over workday has vanished.

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The answer is that they are virtually interchangeable.

However in composite nouns involving adjectival "...ing words" there is a tendency for Americans to drop in "...ing" part. Hence in the USA you hear them talk about fry pans (UK frying pans), swim shorts (UK swimming shorts), file cabinets (UK filing cabinets), a lead role (UK leading role) and hence work day (UK working day).

I think it is largely a difference between American and British treatment.

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  • I've just largely cut-and-pasted from above. 'I get in trouble when I say why I downvote, but I still can't bring myself not to say why I do so. (1) No references. (2) Dictionaries give entries for 'workday' and 'working day', and show that usages are inconsistent. The question should give these, never mind any answer.' // eg CollinsCoBuild:1. A working day is the amount of time during a normal day that you spend doing your job. [mainly British]. Can a 'workday' have this sense? In the UK? May 1, 2020 at 10:29
  • You are right in that "work day", even within the UK, CAN have a semantic difference from "working day". Though as Steve points out in his comment, the latter can be used to imply a day on which work is done - "Monday's a bank holiday, but Tuesday's a normal working day". I still think the overriding distinction here is that between American use and our own.
    – WS2
    May 1, 2020 at 19:56
  • What you say contradicts (and corrects) 'The answer is that they are virtually interchangeable' (the reason for the downvote, of course). May 2, 2020 at 12:59
  • Interchangeable in mid-Atlantic.
    – WS2
    May 2, 2020 at 16:21
  • When crossing the International Working Date Line? May 2, 2020 at 16:47

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